Shutter speed is one of the key variables needed to control light when you’re taking a photo, especially when you’re trying to capture movement – you can find out more about the basics of shutter speed in our previous blog post. In this post, we’ll give you a few tips on how to put those basics into practice, so you can get to know your camera better and create some great quality images for your photo books.
A recap on shutter speed
To give you a quick refresher on the basics of shutter speed; the longer the shutter stays open, the more light can enter your camera. And the faster the shutter closes, the less light will get through. When more light hits your camera sensor, the more exposed the image will be, meaning your pictures will be brighter. But if less light gets through, the darker your photos will be.
How to capture movement by controlling shutter speed
In our previous shutter speed blog, we also gave you a few pointers on how to capture movement in your pictures by altering your settings. Slow shutter speeds will let more light in and make your photos brighter, which can be very useful when shooting in darker conditions. But if there’s any movement when your camera shutter is open, whether it’s the camera shaking or your subject moving around, this can create a blur in your image.
Fast shutter speeds will reduce that blur, but your shot will be much darker. By using a faster shutter speed, you can avoid capturing the movement that you don’t want, but because the shutter is only open for a short amount of time, not as much light can enter the camera.
So, while shutter speed is a great way of controlling your image exposure, it also gives you different creative options to explore when shooting movement.
Now we’ll put these basics into practice and show you a few settings you can try out. But before you start, these tips are better to try on a DSLR. Most smartphones don’t have manual shutter speed controls because the digital shutter is automatically regulated. If you don’t have a camera with shutter speed controls, or you just prefer snapping on your smartphone, there are apps you can download to give you control over your camera’s shutter. But keep in mind that the results might not be the same as on a manual camera.
How to take a great action shot
You’ll need a fast shutter speed for this type of shot. Whether you’re taking photos of your kids playing, your pets running around or your friends playing football, with a few minutes of careful observation and the right camera settings, you can capture a great action shot.
The settings and conditions you’ll need
You’ll need lots of light for this type of shot because your camera shutter will only stay open for 1/500th of a second, so only a tiny amount of light can get through to the camera sensor.
To try this out, find a setting where there’s lots of fast and interesting movement that’s easy to follow. Look for a background that’s not too crowded or cluttered, so that you can easily focus on your subject. Take your time observing your subject and learn its movement patterns. With some careful observation, you’ll notice the best movements and angles to capture, so you can time your photo right, rather than just taking loads and hoping to get a good one.
Once you’re ready, take a few test shots. If the photo’s still blurry, try increasing the shutter speed. If it’s too dark, try decreasing it.
Your goal is to find a balance, where your image is well exposed, but the movement looks frozen in time. If you’re shooting in a very bright setting, you’ll be able to use quite a fast shutter speed fairly easily. But if you’re struggling to get that perfect shot, here are some additional tips to try.
Extra action shot tips
Make sure you experiment with angles, change your position and wait for the right moment. It’s really important to be patient too. It might take a while to get this technique right, but you’ll eventually get the shot you’re looking for.
How to capture motion blur
To create a shot that shows movement, like flowing traffic or a busy crowd that captures the hustle and bustle in the street, try experimenting with slower shutter speeds.
The settings and conditions you’ll need
1/20th of a second leaves your camera shutter open for a relatively long time and lets a lot of light into the sensor. So, you’ll need to look for a setting that isn’t brightly lit. That doesn’t mean you need to be out taking pictures in the middle of the night but avoid a bright sunny day. If the conditions are good enough for fast shutter speeds, they will be far too bright for slower settings. So, try a cloudy day, dusk or an indoor setting that’s not flooded with light.
No matter what subject you’re photographing, try and get into the habit of looking around for an interesting setting. Bright lights and colours can make your shots even more impactful too when capturing motion blur.
Once you’ve found a spot you’re happy with and have watched how all the moving elements travel around, start taking some test photos. If your images are too dark or too bright, alter your shutter settings until you find the right balance. And if you want a more intense blur in your images, set an even slower shutter speed, which will also let more light in.
When you’re working with very slow shutter speeds, try to keep your hands as steady as possible to avoid any accidental blur on your pictures. When the subjects are blurred in your picture, this can be a great way of showing movement, but when your camera moves as you’re taking the picture, you can get a poor quality image. So, if your camera’s too heavy or the exposure time is too long, try using a tripod, or you could just put your camera on a stable surface as a quick fix. Here are some other tips you can try when using slow shutter speeds.
Extra tips when photographing movement
- If the setting is too bright for a good picture at a slow shutter speed, wait for it to get darker or head to a shadier spot.
- By changing the shutter speed, you can also regulate the amount of blur in your photo, ranging from a slight hint of movement in a sharp photo to a more abstract shot filled with colours and shapes. Just play around with your camera settings and get creative.
No rules are set in stone in photography. So, you can have some fun experimenting and see what works for you. But just remember these final tips.
- To freeze motion, like an athlete in action, and to show the drama of a specific movement, use a fast shutter speed. This is better when photographing one person.
- To blur motion, like flowing traffic or a busy crowd, use a slow shutter speed. This is better for showing collective movement. It’s great for making indoor shots seem more intimate and personal too.
Use this as a guide, and keep checking out the rest of the posts in our photography tips series, like this introduction to photography basics, to see how you can improve your photos and create some amazing photo books and prints.
We’d love to see how you’re experimenting with shutter speed, so share your best snaps with us on Facebook and Instagram with #bonusprint.